Game Sixty-Four, the New York Rangers at the Chicago Blackhawks
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Three days without Rangers hockey certainly was rough for us to get through, but it could prove to be a quite the boon to the team. In those three days without a regular season game to play, the Rangers got another few days closer to the return of Henrik Lundqvist and, hopefully, managed to work on getting Keith Yandle and James Sheppard as comfortable as they can possibly be with their new team. Three days without a regulation season game to play will have allowed bumps and bruises to heal, young players to get some quality time to work on their skills, roles, and flaws with the coaching staff, and for the team to catch its breath after an amazing February and a crazy deadline day for the Rangers.
Tonight the Rangers' road trip continues in Chicago against yet another Original Six team; the Blackhawks. Chicago is currently fourth in the Western Conference behind only the Ducks, Predators, and Blues. The Blackhawks will be without Patrick Kane for what looks like at least the rest of the regular season and perhaps a big chunk of the playoffs, but that hardly changes the fact that they are an outstanding team that other great hockey teams will (and should) measure themselves against. The Blackhawks, despite all of their firepower, are right in the middle of the pack in the NHL when it comes to goal scoring, but they are the second best team in the league in GA/GP, which means they are even better at preventing goals than the Rangers are. Simply put, the Blackhawks know how to win hockey games and a big part of that is the amount of rubber they put on the opposing net during a game. No team registers more shots on net per game than Chicago does. In other words, if the Rangers are sloppy and irresponsible in their own zone tonight, Toews and the Hawks could make tonight brutal on Cam Talbot.
In the next four days, including tonight's contest, the Rangers play three hockey games against three teams that are all playoff-bound. Two of those teams just so happen to be the Capitals and Islanders who the Rangers are currently wrestling with for supremacy in the Metropolitan Division and the Eastern Conference. A win tonight on the road against a team like Chicago could mean a lot more for two points the Blueshirts. A win tonight could get this team buzzing and feeling great about their roster, what they can accomplish, and how their fate is firmly in their own hands. Then again, this team should already be feeling pretty great about those things considering what they have accomplished with Henrik Lundqvist on the shelf. Let's get back to some Rangers hockey tonight in the city best known for mustaches, Bears jackets, and that movie that was a play that had Richard Gere Queen Latifah singing show tunes in it.
The New York Rangers' March Schedule
3/2, Predators at Rangers, 7:00(win.) 3/4, Rangers at Red Wings, 8:00(overtime loss.)
3/8, Rangers at Blackhawks, 7:30
3/10, Rangers at Islanders, 7:00
3/11 Rangers at Capitals, 8:00
3/14, Rangers at Sabres, 7:00
3/15, Panthers at Rangers, 5:00
3/18, Blackhawks at Rangers, 8:00
3/21, Rangers at Hurricanes, 7:00
3/22, Ducks at Rangers, 7:30
3/24, Kings at Rangers, 7:00
3/26, Rangers at Senators, 7:00
3/28, Rangers at Bruins, 1:00
3/29, Capitals at Rangers, 3:00
3/31, Rangers at Jets, 8:00
Mike's Player to Watch: Martin St. Louis
It has been five games without a goal or an assist for Martin St. Louis. There are those Rangers fans who are already considering what it might mean to not re-sign MSL after this season and then there are those fans who have complete faith that Marty will show up when it matters, just like he did in the 2014 Playoffs. St. Louis has had a very up-and-down season in his first full regular season campaign with the Blueshirts. When things look good, they look really good. But when things look bad, and more often than not that has been the case, they look alarming for St. Louis and his role with the team after this season. But, what comes after this season doesn't really matter right now. What does matter right now is that St. Louis finds a way to be make things happen with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider instead of looking out of play with the two younger players. The Rangers are going to need MSL on his game if they want to come away with two big points on the road tonight. Hopefully a break in the action will have worked wonders for the Rangers oldest player.
Let's go Rangers. Drop the puck.